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Dia Art Foundation announces two programs dedicated to the work of Franz Erhard Walther
Franz Erhard Walther, Positionen, 1969. Riggio Galleries. Courtesy Dia Art Foundation, New York. Photo: Paula Court.

BEACON, NY.- Dia Art Foundation announced two programs dedicated to the work of the artist Franz Erhard Walther. The events are planned on the occasion of the exhibition, Work as Action, which is on view at Dia:Beacon through February 13, 2012.

On Saturday, September 17, 2011, a daylong colloquium will be held at Dia:Beacon that brings together scholars, artists, and writers to examine and discuss the historical significance of Walther’s 1. Werksatz (First Work Set) (1963–69), the centerpiece of Work as Action. A conversation between the artist and independent curator Jennifer Winkworth will subsequently be held at Dia:Chelsea, in New York City, on Monday, September 19, 2011. RSVP for both events at

In 1963 while a student at the Staatliche Kunstakademie in Düsseldorf, Walther began fabricating simple forms made from muslin and Styrofoam, which were stacked, folded, and wrapped. In so doing, he signaled his move away from conventional notions of sculpture and thus initiated a more open-ended investigation into “object” and “action.” As he has argued: “This moment of manipulation, and then action as a component of the work, or as the work itself, became the main theme. The decisive fundamental idea was to build up an œuvre from action.”

The highly ambitious First Work Set demonstrates the complexity of his inquiry. Assuming a radical approach that directly recruited the body of the spectator in the activation of the work, Walther underscored the spatiotemporal experience of sculpture. Consisting of 58 fabric elements or “instruments for process” (the artist’s term) or props made from thick cotton in an array of earth tones, this multipart sculpture, which Walther began in 1963 in Düsseldorf and completed in 1969 in New York City, was eventually fabricated in an edition of ten. The work can be displayed in two configurations, either as “demonstrations” or as “storage” installations. As the artist explained: “These objects are instruments, they have little perceptual significance. The objects are important only through the possibilities originating from their use.”

Walther’s use of malleable materials and ephemeral “actions” as the basis for his sculptures, his understanding of the role of language, and the continued presence of drawing as integral to his conception of space are topics to be explored during the course of the colloquium. Participants are offered an unprecedented opportunity to study Walther’s First Work Set first-hand at Dia:Beacon, in relation to the earlier works included in this exhibition, as well as in proximity to Dia’s collection, which includes the work of many of Walther’s peers and colleagues in both Germany and New York. This colloquium represents the start of a research inquiry on Walther’s work that will culminate in a forthcoming book on Walther’s First Work Set, which Dia plans to publish in 2014. This book will be part of the institution’s collection series, which focuses on single works in Dia’s collection and includes Blinky Palermo: To the People of New York City, Max Neuhaus: Times Square, Time Piece Beacon, and Robert Smithson: Spiral Jetty, among other publications.

Franz Erhard Walther
Franz Erhard Walther was born in 1939 in Fulda, Germany, where he lives and works. He studied at the Offenbach School of Applied Art and at the Düsseldorf Kunstakademie in the early 1960s and lived in New York in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Walther has exhibited extensively since 1967, participating in Documentas 5 (1972), 6 (1977), 7 (1982), and 8 (1987), and his work was included in the landmark 1969 exhibition “When Attitudes Become Form” at the Kunsthalle Bern. A major retrospective of his work was recently mounted at Musée d'art moderne et contemporain, Geneva, and he had a solo show at Peter Freeman, New York, in Spring 2010. Walther was a professor at the Hochschule für Bildende Künste in Hamburg from 1971 until 2009, where he taught Martin Kippenberger, John Bock, and Jonathan Meese, among others. Dia’s exhibition marks Walther’s first solo museum show in the United States since 1990.

Jennifer Winkworth
Curator Jennifer Winkworth included Franz Erhard Walther’s First Work Set in her seminal exhibition, “Spaces,” at the Museum of Modern Art, New York in 1969, alongside works by Michael Asher, Dan Flavin, Larry Bell, and Robert Morris. She is currently Vice President at the Musée d'Art Moderne et d'Art Contemporain, Nice, France.

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